Sadly I don’t think Margaret Atwood and I are meant to be. I was really excited about The Handmaid’s Tale but then it didn’t really do it for me and now Alias Grace hasn’t really been a winner either. It’s a shame because she writes tales that should be perfect for me and so many people I know (and whose literary opinions I respect) have such wonderful things to say about her but it just doesn’t seem to be working out for us. Anyway, let’s turn to Alias Grace…
It took me FOREVER to read this book (7 months to be precise). Partly because it was far too heavy to carry around with me and partly because I just didn’t get it most of the time I was reading.
A friend from work who had previously lent me two books that I really enjoyed loaned me her copy of Grace with the accolade that “it’s the only book she’s ever read twice”. So I was devastated to realise I didn’t like it when I started reading. I think a large part of my early dislike was due to the format of the writing. The first chapters are presented as letters between characters we don’t yet know and newspaper reports about events which happened prior to the book’s beginning. I find that this kind of format is tricky to get right and quite often I’m turned off by this style of writing which is what happened here.
Happily a large part of the book is actually written as prose from the point of view of Grace, a young woman who finds herself (wrongly?) imprisoned for the murder of her employer, or one of the doctors who is trying to establish her guilt or innocence. This is where the book took off for me – especially in its poignant accounts of Grace’s past sufferings and by the end I was actually gripped. I’m not going to give it away because I guess it’s at the back for a reason but when I turned the final page and read the author’s note the book took on a whole new level and for once I really wish that I’d seen that first.
I find it hard to say whether or not I’d recommend this book but on balance I’m glad I read it, take from that what you will!